Which opening scene works best for a Hollywood film on Alice?
Scene 1: Babe Ruth hands a ball to a 17-year old girl (Babe Didrikson Zaharias) out in centerfield before a San Francisco Seals Game. He whispers: “Kid, throw it high. You get more distance.” Show in slow motion how the girl, determined, throws a perfect one-hop throw to home plate. Cut to Babe Ruth again handing a ball to a 13-year old girl (Alice Marble) out in centerfield. Again, he whispers: “Kid, throw it high. You get more distance.” Again in slow motion, show Alice throw the ball from centerfield and into the stands behind home plate.
Scene 2: Alice Marble works as an associate editor producing comic strip images of Wonder Women of History for Marvel Comics. Cut to each comic strip heroine in action: Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth.
Scene 3: In preparing for Wimbledon in 1939, Alice Marble and Bobby Riggs work out together. They sometimes place bets on a game they play based on the lob and overhead drill. The best lobber in the men’s game, Riggs is only allowed to hit lobs. The best overhead smash in the women’s game, Alice Marble can only hit overheads. The bets get larger and larger, the points more dramatic . . . Cut to both of them holding their 1939 Wimbledon trophies in singles and mixed doubles together.
Scene 4: Alice Marble writes at her desk. The words appear on the screen with a voiceover: “If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentle-people and less like sanctimonious hypocrites…. If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.” Show clips of Althea Gibson playing along with headlines about her being the first African-American to compete in a grand slam and win Wimbledon. Cut to an older Althea Gibson writing at a desk as she mouths these words to herself: “Alice Marble will always be unforgettable.”
Note on Scene 1: Fairly closely scripted following Alice Marble’s own words. A 2020 book by Robert Wientraub–The Divine Miss Marble: a Life of Tennis, Fame and Mystery–presents research that the two famous Babes were not there.
Notes on Scene 3: No one except Eleanor “Teach” Tennant (coach of both Riggs and Alice) knows for sure what games Bobby and Alice played before they both won Wimbledon in 1939 and the war put an end to it all.
More info on the photograph of Alice Marble can be found in the National Portrait Gallery.
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